Saturday, August 30, 2014

'50's Corman

IT CONQUERED THE WORLD-1956-AIP low budget S.F. classic from Roger Corman! When a government satellite disappears and then crash lands in the town of Beachwood California, a disgraced scientist Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) claims that a visitor from Venus has landed and is preparing to take over the world. He tries to convince his friend Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) that this is a good thing ("That superior intelligence happens to be a personal friend of mine"). One way it hopes to accomplish a takeover is by sending out weird pulsating flying creatures that turn humans into emotionless zombies who herd the local populace into the desert for "protective custody" (we never see this however). Beverley Garland plays Claire, Anderson's hard nose wife who tries desperately to convince him of his folly despite being in love with him. Sally Fraser is Paul's cheery wife Joan who Paul is forced to shoot after she's taken over.

The script by AIP vet Lou Rusoff (DAY THE WORLD ENDED) provides a lot of great dialogue (Graves' speech at the climax is particularly memorable). The rubbery "inverted ice cream cone" monster/invader (created and operated by Paul Blaisdell) is usually a target of much ridicule and his demise (involving a blowtorch) is wacky but it hardly takes away from the enjoyment of the story which is really put over by the acting ans script. Also added is a small army patrol led by Dick Miller and his comical phony Hispanic sidekick (Jonathan Haze), Russ Bender as a general and usual screenwriter Charles B. Griffith as a scientist.

This is the only sci-fi/horror film Roger Corman made in 1956 but the next year he made the ultra cool NOT OF THIS EARTH! (which also features Garland)

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COLDBLOODED-1995-A weird emotionless bookie named Cosmo (Jason Priestly) is, for some reason, promoted to hit-man by his new Mafioso boss (Robert Loggia). He becomes the protege' of the present hit-man named Steve (Peter Riegert) and proves to be better than his teacher. He kills various people (including one of the film's producers Michael J. Fox in a cameo) and falls in love with his yoga teacher (Kimberley Williams). Eventually he wants out of "the company" but doesn't find it that easy to do.

This is a strange black comedy that has some funny moments especially from Riegert who's great but Priestly to me seems to channeling Johnny Depp in his performance and the conclusion isn't very good. Director Wallace Wolodarsky wrote MONSTERS VS. ALIENS.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Al's Back!

BRAIN OF BLOOD-1971-Sometimes this Al Adamson horror film is said to have been made in The Philippines because it was produced by Hemisphere, a company that put out the John Ashley/Blood Island movies. According to Sam Sherman the whole production was wrapped up in 90 days. It looks more like it took nine days.

In the far off Middle East country of Kalid, their benevolent leader Amir (Reed Hadley) is dying. Some of his fellow countrymen who seem to worship him hatch a plot to take him to America after he dies and have his brain transplanted into a new body. His future wife Tracy (Regina "Mrs. Adamson" Carroll) and two colleagues Bob (Grant Williams; THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN in better days) and Mohammed (Zandor Varkov; the count in Adamson's DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN the same year) take him to Dr. Trenton (Kent Taylor in one of his 6 Adamson movies), a mad, egotistical surgeon who's created a some kind of brain transplant and is assisted by mean dwarf Dorro (2' 11" Angelo Rossitto who'a also in DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN).  When the body they intend to use is damaged, Trenton uses his very big, mentally challenged go-fer Gor (7' 4" John Bloom also in THE INCREDIBLY TWO HEADED TRANSPLANT the same year) to temporarily house Amir's brain. Gor is also disfigured because some yahoos once threw battery acid on his face (terrible make-up job). Later, after Mohammed is killed, Tracy urges Amir to turn against Bob and Trenton and they run away but have problems getting a car. Trenton goes after Gor/Amir with a crazy ray gun. In the end Trenton transplants Amir's brain into Bob's body and goes to help rule Kalid.

The late Al Adamson made this crazed horror movie between FIVE BLOODY GRAVES and THE FEMALE BUNCH. There's lots of talk, long chase scenes and a bloody but phony brain operation. The acting is bad with only old timer Kent Taylor rising above the mediocre script. Vicki Volante (who's film career seems to be made up entirely of appearances in Adamson movies) plays a captive who kills Dorro with a hypodermic needle.

BRAIN OF BLOOD used to play on late night TV as THE CREATURE'S REVENGE. It's also been released as THE UNDYING BRAIN and THE OOZING BRAIN.

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Friday, August 22, 2014


HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY-1981-This starts off with a woman looking for her boyfriend in empty building. She finds him but he's a bloody mess. Then she gets a knife through her head. In NYC Norman (Paolo Malco; also in THE NEW YORK RIPPER for the same director) and his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl; also in THE BEYOND by the same director) are packing to go live in a rural Boston house (in a cemetery) where Norman's co-worker killed his mistress then committed suicide. Their young song Bob (Giovanni Frezza; also in the director's MANHATTAN BABY) looks at a picture of the house and sees a young girl in the window. Later, when his parents go to pick up the keys Bob meets the little girl, named Mae who only he can see. She warns him to stay away. While they unpack Norman discovers that the basement door has been boarded up. Soon the mysterious looking Ann (Ania Pieroni; also in TENEBRE) shows up to be their babysitter. At night Norman catches her trying to break open the door. When she is alone in the house the next day, Lucy is terrorized by weird noises. Norman decides to open the door to show Lucy there's nothing there and the two of them are attacked by a bat. They decide to move but then the real estate agent is killed in a bloody poker attack by a grunting unseen killer. Meanwhile Bob plays tag with Mae. Ann gets decapitated and Bob is chased by the killer. Lucy doesn't believe him but when he's trapped in the basement (and Norman has to break down the door with an axe) we learn that for some reason a Dr. Freudstein, a deformed one armed killer who needs human cells to survive is living in the basement! When Norman stabs him maggots ooze out of his body. Despite this the monster doctor kills both Bob's parents then terrorizes Bob until Mae (who also seems to be a Freudstein) pulls him to safety (or does she?). Her mother? /grandmother? leads them away (to heaven? or the past?) in the "makes no sense" ending.

HOUSE was directed by cult Italian gore-master Lucio Fulci and to me is one of his weakest films. It's full of plot holes and characters saying ambiguous things that are never explained. Who is the little girl Mae? How suddenly did Norman find out about Freudstein? And what the hell was actually going on? Why did Freudstein become an ugly killer living in the basement? And more importantly where did they get the kid who plays Bob? He was kinda of scary himself a few times and reminded me of Mick Jagger! The story also seems to hint that Norman and Anne could have had an affair.

It does feature some extreme gore (a Fulci specialty) and a little suspense.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

DUEL TO DEATH-1983-This crazy violent period piece is essentially about the bad blood between Chinese Kung-Fu and Japanese "sword fighting". The Japanese look down on the "weak" monks and are clearly the aggressors while the Chinese are honorable and would rather live in peace but every ten years a tournament to the death is held between the two countries. Ching Wan (Damian Lau; THE HEROIC TRIO), known as "lord of the sword", is the Chinese contender while his main rival is Hashimoto (Norman Chu also in Tsui Hark's WE'RE GOING TO EAT YOU)), an intense Japanese swordsman who had to kill his own sensei as a final test. The two become friends when a plot to rig the tournament is discovered. This is full of good fights, blood, dismemberment, exploding ninjas and a severed head that talks.

Director Sio-Tung Ching also made A CHINESE GHOST STORY. The remastered DVD is called DUEL TO THE DEATH.

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Plan 47

47 RONIN-2013-Universal Pictures tries to emulate the Tom Cruise hit THE LAST SAMURAI with this fictional fantasized version of the Japanese story of the 47 Ronin (known as "Chushingura" ) as a band of masterless samurai seek vengeance for the death of their master. It would have been great if Hollywood hadn't decided to make it a vehicle for Keanu Reeves. He's Kai, a half-English/half-Japanese "changeling" taken in by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka). Of course no one likes him especially Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada; also in THE LAST SAMURAI). Only Asano's daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki) accepts him and they fall in love. The film does afford Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa a good role and the photography and scenery are excellent but Reeves character brings the whole thing down.

The director Carl Rinsch had previously made shorts and commercials.

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CHUPACABRA VS. THE ALAMO-2013-This is by far the worst "made for TV/direct to DVD"  atrocities I have seen in recent memory.

It's about a pack of chupacabras who come across the border from Mexico to eat victims. The plot is fairly routine and predictable but this nonsense is made even more pathetic and overbearing because it stars Erik Estrada who at one time in decade called the '70's starred in the now forgotten TV show "CHiPs". His performance is worst than terrible even for such low budget trash. He plays a San Antonio narc named Carlos. He has a new female partner (Julia Benson) who he eventually works with to hunt down the little vicious buggers and protect his stupid daughter and drug gang member son. Since his superiors won't  help him he has to enlist his son's gang to help destroy the famous monsters. Somehow they wind up at The Alamo and blow it up!

The CGI doggie like Chupacabras  are horrible. I'd rather watch and THE KILLER SHREWS! Director Terry Ingram made other movies I never heard of and worked on TV (R.L. STINE'S THE HAUNTING HOUR).

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